Yesterday was Halloween. I dressed up as an Egyptian Queen and went trick-or-treating with my niece and her kids. It ended up being a really warm day. I didn’t post to my blog yesterday, mainly because I was helping babysit. John went in to work late today, so we went for a jog this morning. We ran 3 miles around the park. While we were jogging, I turned my iPod up so the music was loud. I head a voice say You can do anything you want as long as you don’t chant! I managed to ignore it and we came back and had breakfast with John’s mom and dad. Tomorrow we’re picking up the last of our things from the apartment. Then we’ll put everything else in storage on November 19th. This Saturday we leave for DC. We’re both looking forward to the trip.
Since we’ve been here in Gilroy, I’ve been doing pretty good managing the voices. Friday I had a hard time, but I recovered. I’m doing a lot better now. It’s better to have some company and be around other people. Usually I spend most of the day alone in the apartment. I agree with John, it’s better to listen to music or to have the TV on, rather than complete quiet. Then I focus less on what I hear, and more on my own life. I’m still reading The Center Cannot Hold. She’s still having trouble staying on medication, but she’s been teaching at USC for 5 years now. She’s a very remarkable woman. I find her story encouraging, and I highly recommend this book.
John and I both had a restless night last night. He woke up tired, but I’m feeling better than I was yesterday afternoon and last night. We’re at his parents’ house now, getting ready to bring some more boxes back from Sunnyvale. We’re thinking of adopting a small dog when we move in February. John thinks a dog would be good company during the day while he’s at work. I agree.
I heard someone tell me, You’re not allowed inside it! I ignored them. I wasn’t really sure what they were talking about, maybe the mobile home park we’re moving to in February. Who knows? John thinks I’m going to run away, but I have no intention of going anywhere. We’ll probably stay here until Tuesday, maybe Wednesday at the latest. Then we have to pack for DC because we leave on Saturday. I think we’ll have a lot of fun in DC. We’re both looking forward to the trip.
I read some more of my book this afternoon, The Center Cannot Hold. While I was reading the voices started talking to me. They told me they wanted me to give up on my Buddhist practice because that was what started the fight between me and the Mafia. I think they mean when I was chanting last year to get rid of them [the voices]. They also said my Buddhist practice is what makes me think that I have the power to fight them. They said that if I didn’t stop chanting, they would kill my husband. I stayed on the futon reading until 5. I felt frozen. I didn’t want to get up and do my exercises. I eventually got up and sat down to chant. They kept talking to me, and telling me why I should stop chanting. I kept chanting. I sent a message to John and told him that the voices told me to stop chanting or they would kill him. He called me a few minutes later while I was still chanting. John reassured me, and said that he would be leaving work in 10 minutes. I chanted until he walked through the door.
When John came home we talked for awhile. I told him about how I didn’t want to get up off the couch, and what the voices were saying to me. He always says, “You know they aren’t real don’t you?” Of course I know that, even if sometimes I have my doubts. In the past they have told me that I don’t have schizoaffective disorder, that they are real people (i.e. the Mafia, my neighbors, former roommates, etc…), and that they can hear my thoughts. I am also able to hear them in my head, like telepathy. This morning, someone was asking why they are able to hear my thoughts. That’s another symptom of schizophrenia, the feeling that your thoughts are being broadcast into the environment.
We talked for a little longer, and then John went to take a shower. He asked me how I was feeling, if I was still nervous. I told him I was still a little nervous. I guess the fear and the worry from earlier hadn’t worn off yet. Sometimes I feel like my voices are evil, and that there’s a perpetual darkness enveloping my mind that follows me around everywhere, putting others around me in danger. I told my Kaiser therapist that the other night at our appointment. That was years ago when I thought that the Mafia was following me around, endangering anyone I was with. She reminded me of how delusional that idea was.
My ideas are still delusional. Fortunately, I am usually able to ignore them. My husband worries about me, but really I am only worried about him.
This morning I read in bed for awhile before I got up. The book I ordered, The Center Cannot Hold came in the mail yesterday, so I started reading it. It’s a very good book, and it has won a lot of literary awards. So far, I’m about half way through. It’s a memoir written by Elyn Saks, a professor diagnosed with schizophrenia. I had a hard time putting the book down, both yesterday afternoon, and this morning. I highly recommend it!
I got up and chanted for almost 45 minutes. I heard someone say Why would you put your husband at risk like that? It sounded like the voice was coming from across the parking lot. Then someone else said, What if we kill her husband? The other voice responded, I guess that resolves it. I kept chanting. The voices are trying to get me to stop chanting again. They are also trying to get me to leave our apartment. So far I haven’t agreed to anything.
Yesterday I cleaned most of the kitchen with some smelly, toxic 409. Today, I am going to get things ready to take to Gilroy tonight. More clothes, and a few more boxes. Monday is Halloween. I might go trick-or-treating with my niece and her kids if we stay in Gilroy. Otherwise, we’ll come back to Sunnyvale, keep cleaning, and get ready for our trip to DC to visit my brother. We’re going to a 49ers-Redskins game, a tour of the White House, a visit to the National Archives, and the usual museum/memorial tours. Fun!
I chanted for an hour this morning. While I was chanting the voices were telling me not to chant, or to put a time limit on how much I chant. Then they said I couldn’t write in my blog about them, or collect state disability. Someone else said they (the voices) were working very hard at coming to an agreement. After that, I stopped listening. I found an encouraging quote in my Daily Encouragement book. It reads “Whether we regard difficulties in life as misfortunes or whether we view them as good fortune depends entirely on how much we have forged our inner determination. It all depends on our attitude or inner state of life. With a dauntless spirit, we can lead a cheerful and thoroughly enjoyable life. We can develop a ‘self’ of such fortitude that we can look forward to life’s trial and tribulations with a sense of profound elation and joy: “Come on obstacles! I’ve been expecting you! This is the chance that I’ve been waiting for!” Buddhism teaches that obstacles are our opportunity to change our lives for the better. Although I admit that it is not always easy to view difficulties from this perspective. Many people don’t. I think it takes a lot of effort and discipline, and for me, a lot of chanting. Even then, I will get discouraged. It is a constant battle.
The founder of this Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin stresses the crucial importance of the heart or mind. Daisaku Ikeda states, “It is in this inner realm of life that the potential resides for dramatic shifts from evil to good or from good to evil. That is why the Daishonin’s teaching of enlightenment can be viewed as a process that begins with inner change. In other words, through the power of faith, we can defeat the negative functions inside us – workings that are governed by the fundamental darkness that resides in all human hearts – and manifest the positive functions of life that are one with the Dharma nature – that is, our Buddhahood.”
We must not look outside ourselves on the path to enlightenment. This means not blaming others for our circumstances. It also means taking responsibility for our own lives and our own happiness. Our happiness cannot be dependent on something outside of us, rather it must come from within. Learning how to be happy amidst life’s difficulties is definitely a struggle. I am going to continue to chant, and not give up.